Who got the facts wrong? By Solita Collas-Monsod Philippine Daily Inquirer First Posted 22:28:00 04/15/2011

ESTELITO MENDOZA and Associates (EMA), lawyers of Lucio Tan (and also Danding Cojuangco, according to the latest reports on the San Miguel case), paid for another full-page ad in this newspaper (April 2) in reaction to my column of March 26. According to them, I gave "unwarranted meaning" to their reproducing the July 20, 2009 Sandiganbayan resolution denying the motion of the Presidential Commission on Good Government and Office of the Solicitor General for reconsideration of its order on April 23,2009 terminating the presentation of testimonial evidence by the prosecution.

Excuse me. I gave "unwarranted meaning" to the July 20, 2009 resolution? Well, who reproduced the whole thing in the first place, paying for one full-page ad in order to do so? They must have thought the document was significant, unless they can afford to waste money. And then when I react to it, they consider that I am giving "unwarranted meaning" to it? If they didn’t want anybody to take a close look at it, then why reproduce it at all?

So now they reproduce the transcript of the April 23, 2009 Sandiganbayan hearing so that "the readers of Ms Solita Collas-Monsod may have the FACTS right…" Does that mean that the first full-paid ad didn’t have the facts right? If so, that would be fine with me, because my column precisely commented that the Sandiganbayan was selective in its choice of time frame, particularly since the EMA ad complained that the case has been pending for almost 24 years. And if EMA thinks that it was I who didn’t have the facts right, wouldn’t it have been better to point out exactly where I got my facts wrong?

Because, difficult as it was (I had to use a magnifying glass), I did read the ad, which was described by EMA as "a copy of the relevant portions of the Transcript … of the hearing of April 23, 2009 … when it issued the Order in open court." Only to find out that almost half of the "relevant portions" was devoted to what Mendoza said during the hearing (sneaky, sneaky).

Moreover, it must be noted that the Sandiganbayan had nothing to say about-nor did it even ask the defendants to respond to-Solicitor Mauricia Dinopol’s argument (quoting her boss) that "although the complaint was filed some time in 1987, the defendants were also at fault in the delay of the case, Your Honor, because they filed several delaying pleadings also, Your Honor, so that the last pre-trial brief was filed some time in 2005. By that time, the evidence that we would have already presented in 1988 and 1989 were already not available readily, Your Honor, to the government."

Ignoring such relevant (in the real sense of the word) facts-by starting the time frame from 2005 instead of 1987-will not make them go away.

It turns out, by the way, dear readers, that this is not the first time the defense tried to get the Sandiganbayan to terminate the prosecution’s presentation of testimonial evidence. Would you believe that in late 2007, barely two years into the trial proper, the defendants (read EMA) filed a motion to order the government to conclude the presentation of its evidence? The reason given: the case had been pending for over 20 years and its pendency had inflicted irreparable damages to the defendants. They delay the trial for 18 years, and then get impatient after two years. Chutzpah.

The opposition to such a ludicrous motion, as drafted by Catalino Generillo (who was then relieved from his PCGG job at the request of EMA) is instructive. He compared it with the plunder case against Joseph Estrada (and seven other named defendants plus John and Jane Does) which involved less than P10 billion, and which took 19 months for the presentation of evidence by the prosecution. In contrast, Civil Case 005 is against 28 individuals and 40 corporations, involving at least P200 billion. Generillo also pointed out that the motion was filed after the testimonies of former PCGG Chairman Jovito Salonga, then Malacañang Museum Director Jeremy Barns and then Rep. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the latter two with documentary and testimonial evidence.

And then, lo and behold, this second move to terminate the evidence of the prosecution, which came at just about the time Mariano Tanenglian, Lucio Tan’s brother, wanted to (he apparently still wants to) testify as a prosecution witness. Coincidence? My sainted foot. More like a pattern-to which the Sandiganbayan seems to be blind.

But all of the above seems to have been rendered moot and academic, because Generillo says (citing Attorney Pabulayan, clerk of court of the Sandiganbayan’s 5th Division) that the written order of the court granting the government’s motion to adduce additional evidence was released last Wednesday. Per that order, the motion was granted "without objection from the defendants and in the furtherance of justice."

At this point, I will not look this gift horse in the mouth.

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Erratum: In last week’s column, I stated, based on an informant’s statement (an insider), that Grace Tan Pulido resigned from the Department of Finance when Cesar Purisima came in (during the Arroyo administration). Pulido has assured me that she resigned way before Purisima became finance secretary, and that in fact it was Purisima who batted strongly for her appointment as chair of the Commission on Audit. My apologies to readers for giving them the wrong information, and to Cesar Purisima for the slur on his character. But I suggest that he treat his subordinates with greater respect.

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